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Ohio State Football: 2018 Buckeyes Preview and Prediction

J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State Football

J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State Football

Ohio State will have a different look at quarterback but Urban Meyer's team is a legitimate threat to get back to the College Football Playoff after a one-year absence. On offense, the Buckeyes should be solid up front, have an explosive running game and plenty of weapons to throw to. This defense will get after quarterbacks and will rely on the pressure and plays made behind the line of scrimmage as there are some questions and one key injury concern when it comes to the back seven. Even with the loss of seven NFL draft picks, Ohio State is one of the most talented teams in the country and as the Big Ten favorite should remain at the forefront of the playoff conversation.

Previewing Ohio State Football's Offense for 2018

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Ohio State Football/Big Ten Magazine

Urban Meyer's system is proven, and then some. Still, there are some questions as to how this unit will function now that J.T. Barrett is no longer behind center. One of the most accomplished quarterbacks in Big Ten history, Barrett finally has exhausted his eligibility, and that means a true dual threat, trusted leader and willing distributor of the football is gone.

Uncertainty surrounded the quarterback position in the spring, as Dwayne Haskins, Joe Burrow and Tate Martell competed for the job. Haskins and Burrow were locked in a close battle, but Burrow decided to depart the program as a graduate transfer to LSU, leaving Haskins as the clear No. 1 quarterback for 2018. Haskins has a laser-like right arm and opened some eyes with heroics in the Michigan game last year. Still, he needs to show he can run the offense smoothly and handle zone-read responsibilities. Martell will serve as the backup. He has strong instincts and running ability but needs more polish as a passer.

Haskins should be protected up front and has plenty of aerial targets. Plus, the OSU run game is stout. J.K. Dobbins amassed 1,403 rushing yards and averaged 7.2 per pop as a freshman in 2017. Once Mike Weber got back to form, he gave the Buckeyes a dynamic duo in the backfield.

The receiving corps is deep and returns its top seven performers from a year ago. Parris Campbell will be a feature of the offense. Meanwhile, K.J. Hill has developed into a quality possession receiver, and the Buckeyes have several field stretchers, including Johnnie Dixon, who had just 18 receptions last season but turned eight of them into scores.

Up front, All-America center Billy Price will be sorely missed, but tackles Isaiah Prince and Thayer Munford played well during the spring and are ready to pound people. There's plenty of depth at guard, where junior Michael Jordan is an All-Big Ten candidate.

Previewing Ohio State Football's Defense for 2018

The Buckeyes racked up a nation-leading 114 tackles for a loss last season and want to keep that aggression. They still can cover up mistakes in the back seven with Nick Bosa in an even more prominent role and sophomore sensation Chase Young at the other end spot. Inside, Dre'Mont Jones leads a group that also appears to have ample reinforcements.

Linebacker is a major concern. Malik Harrison is athletic but sometimes gets caught out of position. With an Achilles injury to Tuf Borland, Justin Hilliard and Baron Browning appear to be in a tight battle in the middle to fill Borland's spot until his return.

The secondary has promise, although the loss of top cover man Denzel Ward will be felt. At corner, Jeffrey Okudah and Shaun Wade are major talents, but Damon Arnette and Kendall Sheffield have more experience. Jordan Fuller is a complete player at safety. Who lines up next to him is unclear.

Previewing Ohio State Football's Specialists for 201

All four primary specialists return: punter Drue Chrisman, kicker Sean Nuernberger, kickoff man Blake Haubeil and long snapper Liam McCullough. The Buckeyes also boast experience at the return spots as Campbell and Weber ably handle kickoffs while Hill is the top option on punts.

Final Analysis

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Ohio State

OSU ended last season with a win over That Team Up North and a defeat of USC in the Rose Bowl, but the 55-24 setback at Iowa still can't be explained. Plus, the late-season momentum was offset by the loss of a multitude of key players, Barrett atop the list. The Buckeyes will march onward with a new quarterback, a roster loaded with hungry talent and a defense that still plans to come after people.